Words, thanks & hope


One year ago, Russia invaded Ukraine. Eight months ago, Ilona Hlushchenkova and her family arrived in Wanstead, having fled Odesa on the first day of the invasion. A journalist in her home country, the mother-of-one is grateful for all the support she has received and is now looking to apply her talents in a new field 

On 24 February 2022, my life was divided into before and after. On this day, waking up at 5am from the sounds of explosions, my husband and I packed a small bag, took our one-year-old son and crossed the border between Ukraine and Moldova on foot. 

Moldova, Romania, England. Life in hotels, endless transfers and sleepless nights. In the first weeks of the war, we did not know where we would be tomorrow and what we would do next. Complete strangers helped us, and before the start of the war, I never thought the hearts of some were so pure, huge and full of love, while others were so full of hatred, anger and atrocities. 

On 24 February last year – the day of Russia’s full-scale invasion of our peaceful, free and beautiful country – we lost the sense of time, the sense of ourselves and of the future. We became the heroes of Remarque’s novels, only in real life, it does not look so romantic.

War is blood, grief, crippled bodies and crippled destinies. There is a heaviness on the soul, which is forever with you.

We had been looking for sponsors to host our family for a long time. Our friends from Ukraine, who arrived in England in the spring, helped us in our search. They wrote a Facebook post that was responded to by our current sponsors, Barbara and James Morris, two of the nicest people we know. On 1 June 2022, we settled in Wanstead and our lives took on the outline of our former existence. 

In Ukraine, we lived in Odesa, a wonderful city on the Black Sea. This is a place with great culture, wonderful architecture, amazing people and the most beautiful sunrises.

My first impression of Wanstead was that it is lively, green and multicultural. It is an oasis of calm in the midst of the hectic life of a big city. The locals are smiling and hospitable people. Many of you helped, whether it was finding a nursery, a bike or a hairdresser.

Life in a new country is very exciting and difficult at the same time. It feels like you become young and unintelligent again! You have to re-learn how to communicate. You study products in the store for longer and puzzle over how to complete the necessary documents or make an appointment with a doctor. New food, a new rhythm of life, new values ​​and constant homesickness.

Although we are physically safe, we are still living in war. Many of our relatives and friends decided to stay in Ukraine. Now, they are left without electricity, water and heat for long periods due to the constant shelling by Russian terrorists. Not a day passes without disturbing news from home, and we all live with one dream: for peace to come and for the terrorist state of Russia to cease to exist.

I have been a journalist for over 13 years. Since childhood, I knew I would write and steadily followed my dream. I have been a reporter, news anchor and website editor. I ran my own TV projects and worked as a press secretary and marketer. However, in England, my knowledge of the language is not enough to work as a journalist and I am looking for a new field of activity. My English level is B1. I am a sociable and purposeful person, open to everything new. My husband worked as a dentist before the war. Now, he has to follow a long and difficult path to confirm his diploma and continue to practice.

Our little son is my personal miracle. Thanks to him, we have the strength to go through all the trials we faced as refugees. Here and now, we can provide him with a calm and happy childhood, without explosions, sirens and alarms.

The contribution of the UK government and local people in helping Ukraine through these dark times cannot be overstated. But I ask you to continue this with the same zeal, because every day, in the very heart of Europe, civilians and our defenders die at the hands of Russian soldiers.

Please, keep helping in any way you can. There is no small or big help. Now, we need everything: things for those who were left without a home, generators, ammunition and much more. Any and all help is so greatly appreciated. We hug and thank you for all that you have already done.

To connect with Ilona on Facebook, visit wnstd.com/ilona